Policy proposes limits on non-college student speech

Leonor Fuller is also part of the TACTC legislative action committee. Photo by Darien Springer/The Sounds

The board of trustees recently proposed changes to language in the use of college facilities section under Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 132X-30 deciding that non-college groups can exercise free speech in only two areas on the South Puget Sound Community College main campus.

The first consists of the area outside of Building 27 and the grassy area between it and Building 22. The second is by the pond near buildings 31, 32, 33, and 34.

According to SPSCC student Sam Johnson, the restriction would make sense only if non-college students were interfering with classrooms.

According to Johnson, “it would be highly unlikely for anyone to march in to a classroom during lecture and preach about religion and politics.”

Rhonda Coats, vice president for student services, and David Stolier, assistant attorney general, were brought in to aid the board.

Coats said the language needed to define non-college groups as “individuals who are not students or employees of the college.”

Coats said the language was misread by the public because the restrictions on free speech only apply to those who do not belong to the college.

Stolier expressed his problems with any employee being able to “define someone off campus as a college group”. He said that individual employees should not be able to deputize organizations outside of the college.

According to Coats, non-college students don’t “need an invitation to come to campus to exercise their free speech but are restricted to the areas designated in the WAC.” If groups are officially affiliated with a college group they would not be restricted in the same way.

“There is no definite difference between non-students and students, but I believe the school is creating a difference for what they believe to be good for the student,” said Zach Lopossa, an SPSCC student. “They are trying to keep the school its own separate community, with as little external influences as possible.”

Another controversy arose regarding what powers security had to remove students who violated the rules of the use of college facilities section. Anyone who violates the rules established in the section is considered to have committed criminal trespass and would be subject to criminal charges.

Doug Swift, campus security lieutenant, said that security was concerned with the inconsistencies in the use of college facilities language. One article could remove any person and another specified the type of person that could be removed.

“I just got the draft and it’s more a process of going through it with a fine comb and making sure to root out the inconsistencies,” said Swift.

According to Coats and Stolier’s report, much of the confusion regarding the use of public facilities section has stemmed from the misinterpretation of language.

In the use of college facilities language, Stolier wanted to clarify that “affiliated” means “official invitation”. He said this to make it clearer what it would mean for a student or employee to invite a group or club to the college.

Should SPSCC minimize free speech for non-college students? Voice your opinion at the public hearing.
When? Thursday, March 8, at 3:15 p.m.
Where? SPSCC Boardroom Building 25.

Can’t attend? Then send SPSCC President Gerald Pumphrey your voice in writing.
When? By 4 p.m. on March 5
Where? Student and Administrative Services Building 25